For those accustomed to mass-media photojournalism, Skip Schiel’s approach to his craft and resulting body of work might come as a bit of a surprise. Schiel is a participatory photographer, a photojournalist who moves past traditional barriers of objectivity toward a more immersive experience with his subjects. His work, while most often centered in an area of conflict, such as his ongoing projects in Israel and Palestine, does not share the intense focus on violence and strife that most photojournalists seek out in such places, highlighting instead subtler aspects of daily life — a peace march, a market scene, a shared smile…
“The participatory photography of Skip Schiel” by Amy Fletcher in the Juneau Empire (newspaper), September 27, 2012
For one month I presented a series of multimedia shows and print exhibits on the west coast. Twenty-four venues (10 in Alaska, 2 in Oregon, and 12 in California) including churches and Friends meetings, libraries, middle and high schools as well as universities, a TV station, peace centers, and homes. Six different multimedia shows and one print exhibit. Benefits for 3 organizations. Some 15 hours of discussion following presentations. 4 radio interviews. Audiences ranging from 3 to more than 100. Voluntary contributions to respectable fees. And audience responses from warm to lukewarm with a few people hostile (either at the shows or by expressing distaste for my work by removing announcement posters).
I learned a great deal about the issues, my shows, my photography and how to present it, people who generously hosted me overnight, and the region I traveled thru by plane, train, and car. I can’t assess the impact of these shows, whether they will influence events in the Levant. I hope the shows improved with experience. I do know that many people met each other who are active in the movement for Palestinian rights. And this might help strengthen that movement.
My perception is that the movement for justice, peace, security, reconciliation and the application of international law in Palestine-Israel is growing. A key factor is awareness, which is my emphasis, and exhortation to activate, another emphasis of mine. The BDS or Boycott-Divest-Sanction movement gains traction in many regions I visited.
Multimedia shows: The Hydropolitics of Palestine and Israel; Eyewitness Gaza; Israel, the Occupied Territories, and Nonviolent Resistance; Facts on the Ground (a shorter, more basic show developed especially for schools and audiences completely unfamiliar with the region and its issues); Tracing the Jordan River; and Descendants of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Plus the print exhibit, Gaza is Home to One & One-half Million Human Beings, How Do They Live?
With much gratitude to my primary organizers, Elaine Schroeder in Alaska and Louise Dunlap in California. Plus numerous local organizers and hosts and the friends who served as a preview group before I went on the road. The organizers and hosts spun a spiderweb of connections that I simply climbed along to find audiences. I am also grateful to the many financial contributors to this tour, those at my shows who offered donations and bought books and DVDs.
As I was about to leave Juneau Elaine asked me what had been the highlight of my Alaskan visit. I answered, the 90 6th graders I presented to. A solid hour of discussion. Suffering, risk, and death were among the main topics. “Did you see any dead bodies?” Very few adults ever asked me such a question.
I now contemplate a spring tour to the Pacific Northwest. I’m looking for a regional coordinator and I’m willing to pay for this service. Any leads appreciated.
Thanks for staying tuned.
I wanted to thank you again for visiting with my students on the 24th of September. I think they got a lot from having the Israeli/Palestinian water conflict described to them “up close and personal.”
Students have responded to the water issues as you described them and as they studied them briefly before your visit. You can see their responses on my two class blogs at:
(You may have to click on the red response button to read the students’ entries.)
—Jody Smothers Marcello, a high school teacher in Sitka Alaska, after I visited her class with my show, Hydropolitics of Palestine and Israel.
Rocky Mountains, Montana
Fairweather fast ferry, Sitka to Juneau, Alaska
Great Blue Heron, Sitka
Point Lobos, California
Berkeley Street Sundays